Under Susan Molinari, Google Has Veered Away From Green Policy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 20 Nov 2013 10:55:00 GMT

Susan Molinari
Susan Molinari at a Google/Elle/Center for American Progress event January 19, 2013
A review of the "don't be evil" Internet giant Google's stance toward climate change and green policy finds a significant shift to the right in recent years, following the Tea Party surge election and the collapse of mandatory climate legislation in 2010.

Since 2012, Google's policy division has been run by former Republican representative Susan Molinari, a long-time corporate lobbyist. Molinari, whose personal contributions are exclusively to Republicans, has led the Google Washington DC office to host fundraisers exclusively for Republican senators, including Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time database. Under Molinari's direction, Google also supports climate-denial shops such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and the American Conservative Union.

Google's fundraiser for Sen. Inhofe in July sparked controversy and protest, and the membership in ALEC raised a new round of criticism from industry press and Google users.

Google's political support for opponents of its green agenda appears to be part of a retreat from its serious climate-policy agenda of a few years ago.

In 2007, renewable energy politico Dan Reicher joined Google as Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives for Google.org, the company's charitable arm.

Starting that year, Google publicly committed to carbon neutrality because "Solving climate change won’t be simple, and there won’t be a single solution that addresses the entire problem at once. We all need to act together to meet the challenge – from the largest corporations and governments to individual households."

Google pledged then:

Finally, we will campaign for public policies designed to cut emissions to the levels required to keep our climate system stable. We support energy efficiency standards that accelerate the deployment of energy-efficient technologies throughout the world, specific targets to increase renewable energy supplies on the grid, public support for research and development aimed at developing and commercializing low-carbon technologies, and mandatory emissions limits that put a price on carbon.
Google's climate policy platform initially included efficiency standards, a federal renewable portfolio standard, public funding for clean-energy research and development, and a price on greenhouse pollution.

"Meeting our goal will also require improved regulatory frameworks at the regional and national level," Google continued. "We will advocate for specific changes including a national renewable portfolio standard, increased research and development support, and regional and federal incentives for the deployment of renewable electricity."

The call for a carbon price was eliminated from Google's site at the end of 2007. The individual policy provisions were replaced with the Google Clean Energy 2030 plan in November 2008. This effort was led by Google.org's Climate and Energy Technology Manager, Dr. Jeffery Greenblatt, who left Google in 2009 to join the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Reicher, who testified repeatedly before Congress in favor of climate and clean-energy legislation on Google's behalf in 2009, left Google at the end of 2010, to join the Stanford Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

In 2011, Google.org published "The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation," which compared policy scenarios including a suite of renewable-energy policies and a $30/ton carbon tax. This research was led by Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl, who was hired by Facebook at the end of that year.

Also in 2011, Google's Green site was revamped, eliminating policy mentions but including a 100% renewable energy goal for the company's operations.

Then Molinari joined Google in 2012.

Google and Facebook Green Experts Baffled By Their Companies' Support For ALEC

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:02:00 GMT

At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level. When asked by Hill Heat, Facebook’s Bill Weihl replied with reference to other Facebook partners, including Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):
We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we do an enormous amount of good and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and etcetera.

“It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation,” Weihl concluded, when asked why Facebook is a member of ALEC.

Weihl had earlier noted that Facebook has the explicit goal of being 25% powered by renewable energy by 2015, after which it will set another benchmark. ALEC is working to roll back renewable power standards that support Facebook’s targets.

“The DNA of Google isn’t just about being an environmental steward,” Google’s Gary Demasi said during the panel about climate change. “It’s a basic fundamental issue for the company.”

Like Weihl, Demasi couldn’t explain why Google was a member of ALEC, though he expressed discomfort with the company’s action.

“I would say the same as Bill [Weihl],” Demasi told this reporter when asked why Google supports ALEC. Although he may not be happy with every decision the company makes and doesn’t control the policy arm of Google, Demasi said, “we’re part of policy discussions.”

ALEC’s corporate board is dominated by tobacco and fossil-fuel interests, including Altria, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and Koch Industries. In its model legislation and policy briefs, ALEC questions the science of climate change and opposes renewable energy standards, regulation of greenhouse pollution, and other climate initiatives.

Google’s policy division is run by former Republican representative Susan Molinari, whose arrival in 2012 marked a rightward shift in Google’s approach to climate policy.

The forum, “Greening the Internet,” was hosted by the environmental organization Greenpeace at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Greenpeace is simultaneously challenging the ALEC agenda, calling out companies like Google for supporting the politics of climate denial, and encouraging internet companies to “clean the cloud.” Greenpeace’s “Cool IT” rankings take political advocacy as a major concern; in 2012 Google had the top score among all tech companies in part because companies such as Microsoft and AT&T were members of ALEC.

The panelists, from Google, Facebook, Rackspace, Box, and NREL, explained why their companies have set the goal of having their data centers be powered entirely by renewable energy.

Box’s Andy Broer made the moral case for acting to reduce climate pollution.

“I’ve got kids,” he said. “We’re stewards here. We need to make certain what we’re doing today doesn’t ruin the future.”


HILLHEAT: I want to, first off, thank all of you for the work that you’re doing. As kind of a failed climate scientist, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting climate change, and you’re actually getting real results in that. One thing that concerns me is that the American Legislative Exchange Council — which is a corporate group that anyone who is a member of Greenpeace or has read anything of their work [knows] — works to block renewable energy legislation at the state level, question the science of climate change, and basically establish policies that prevent the kind of work that you’re doing. So I’m wondering why Google and Facebook are members of this organization, and how it makes you feel that the work that you’re doing is essentially being countered by the political arms of your own groups?

[Nervous audience laughter.]

WEIHL: We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we are in a position do an enormous amount of good, and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done as a company, and through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and et cetera.

HILLHEAT: And do you know why you’re working with ALEC?

WEIHL: I’m not familiar with all the details of why we’re working with ALEC, so I can’t comment on that.

HILLHEAT: It’s not because you’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation?

WEIHL: It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation.

HILLHEAT: And is Google in the same boat?

FEHRENBACHER: I’m going to go on to the next question.